|Molise in the norman period|
The Normans of Molise
The success gained at the battle of Civitate sul Fortore (1053) marked the beginning of the Norman conquests of the Adriatic lands belonging to the principality of Benevento. Godfrey, brother of Robert Guiscard, attacked the Longobard county of Larino and took by storm the Castle of Morrone in the Samnium-Guillamatum.
In 1061, Robert, son of Godfrey, was proclaimed “primo comiti de Loritello” and carried on the efforts of territorial expansion started by his father. After conquering the County of Teate (the present Chieti), which he entrusted to his brother Drogone, he proceeded to besiege Ortona. The Count, who had vassals all the way to the banks of the Pescara river, played a very important role among the Norman noblemen and was even feared by the Church.
Pope Gregory VII, reconciled with Guiscard (1080), recognised Robert’s victories but requested that he respect the lands belonging to the Papal State. Robert, who had ambitious expansionist designs, was busy across the river Fortore: in 1100 he became Lord of Bovino and perhaps also of Dragonara. His son Robert II revealed himself as a great collaborator of the Church, unlike his father, and took part in the council of Troy (1115) called by Pasquale II, and in the council convened five years later by Callisto. The two Popes tried to stop the internecine fighting among the Norman lords and to persuade them to side against Arrigo V.
Robert II ruled the County during the reign of William, Duke of Apulia (1111-1127), who was weak and unable to control the feudal wars fought in Capitanata. William of Loritello betrayed Roger II and sided with Lotario III, who descended on Italy in 1137, paying homage to him on the river Tronto and opening the doors of Termoli, in line with the policy also adopted by Count Hugh II of Molise.
The vengeance of the King against William was not late in coming: the County was presumably seized by the Crown. Before dying, Roger II asked his son William to bestow the title of Count of Loritello to Robert of Basunvilla, an elusive figure who adopted an ambiguous but often pro-German policy. In 1169, Robert was called back by Queen Margaret and William the Good to pay homage and become once again Count of Loritello and of Conversano.